Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer Content
Posted: 05/31/2022
Happy dog with tongue hanging out

Essential Dog Vaccines List

Is your dog due for one or more vaccines? While vaccines prepare every dog’s immune system to minimize and prevent illness, vaccine timing and frequency can vary based on a dog’s age and individual risk factors like their breed, living environment/region, and more. Puppies, for instance, have developing immune systems and will require more vaccines than adult dogs. So there’s no one-size-fits-all schedule for every dog. Nor is there a requirement to get every shot from the vet office. Still, boarding facilities require proof of certain vaccinations for all dogs (in order to avoid spreading contagious diseases throughout the entire facility), so it’s important to stay up-to-date with these essential shots before you leave for summer vacation.

Some dog owners prefer the convenience and cost savings of vaccinating at home. Others operate a breeding facility or work at a shelter where dogs of all ages need vaccines regularly. Either way, if you’re wondering which dog vaccines are absolutely necessary, read on to learn about essential and optional dog vaccines on the market.

Recommended Vaccines for Dogs

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends core vaccines for all dogs to avoid widespread contagious diseases: distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, and rabies. These vaccines deliver long-term immunity for dogs with doses annually or once every three years.


The highly contagious canine distemper disease comes from a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous systems of dogs and other animals. It spreads when infected animals sneeze or cough, or when animals share food and water bowls. Once called “hard pad,” distemper makes a dog’s foot pad thick and hard. It also leads to discharge in the eyes and nose, plus fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and even death.


Parvo is another very contagious virus that attacks the GI system. Dogs experience a low appetite and suffer vomiting, fever, and usually bloody diarrhea. These symptoms can rapidly lead to extreme dehydration, and even kill a dog in 48-to-72 hours.


The adenovirus can appear in two formats. Type 1 is infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) and leads to liver disease. Severe cases often occur in young puppies and lead to fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, swelling and even jaundice. These cases can be fatal. Type 2 attacks the upper respiratory tract, causing fever, difficulty breathing and persistent cough.


Most states mandate rabies vaccinations every three years for adult dogs. That’s because it’s transmissible to people and almost always fatal. This viral disease – usually transmitted from the bite of an infected animal – affects the central nervous system, leading to headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death.

Risk-based Vaccinations

Depending on a dog’s specific risk factors, they could require additional vaccinations. These “non-core” vaccines are only necessary in certain cases:
  • Bordetella
  • Leptospirosis
  • Parainfluenza
  • Lyme Disease
  • Canine Influenza
If you board your dog often, you probably recognize the bordetella vaccine. Many kennels require up-to-date bordetella shots to prevent kennel cough, a contagious respiratory disease that can spread quickly in boarding venues. As another example, dogs that spend a good deal of time outdoors (particularly in the woods), will benefit from a lyme disease vaccine because the disease spreads through infected deer tick bites.

Dogs that don’t encounter these environments regularly may not need these additional vaccines. Check out the AAHA’s lifestyle-based vaccine calculator to help determine which of these vaccines make sense for your dog. As with any vaccine, remember anaphylactoid reactions may occur.

Dog Vaccines Schedule

Core vaccinations of distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus are available in a combination shot referred to as DAP or DAPP (if it includes the parainfluenza). The “A” for adenovirus is sometimes interchanged with “H” for hepatitis, so DAP and DHP (DAPP and DHPP) are one in the same. A typical schedule for these core vaccines includes an annual booster, but some dogs may be able to spread out their shots between 1-3 years.

The last of the core vaccines, rabies, is far more regulated as some states require that rabies vaccines be given by a licensed veterinary professional. Many make it illegal to sell or buy. Some states, while not restricting the sale of the vaccine, refuse to recognize its validity unless administered by a professional. Please check your state and local laws before purchasing.

Non-core vaccines may not be necessary across a dog’s entire lifetime, but they do need annual doses to maintain effectiveness. As always, consult your veterinarian with questions for your specific dog(s).

Puppy Vaccines Schedule

Puppies have less mature immune systems than adult dogs, so they are more at risk for disease. They require a series of vaccinations to ensure they develop immunity, and it also helps to reduce exposure to other dogs in the early months.

The American Kennel Club provides a sample puppy vaccine schedule starting with vaccines beginning at 6-8 weeks and building in multiple doses up to 12 months of age. Non-core vaccines may be added to this schedule as needed based on lifestyle and other factors as recommended by a veterinarian.

Cost for Dog Vaccines

Breeders, shelter operators and owners alike can see a huge savings in the cost for dog vaccines when they purchase Canine Spectra vaccines from PBS Animal Health. Spectra offers a top quality line of single-dose, multi-protection, combination vaccines that provide immunity against major canine health risks from puppy to senior.

The base product, Canine Spectra 5, covers the core vaccines plus parainfluenza. This vaccine is an ideal first shot for 6-week-old puppies to be taken in 3-4 week intervals until 16 weeks old (for at least 3 doses). It also works for an adult dog’s annual booster.

Other Spectra vaccines include dosing for coronavirus, leptospira, lyme and bordetella depending on your dog’s needs. Canine Spectra 10, for example, is a comprehensive booster that contains four strains of leptospira and coronavirus for added peace of mind. It’s recommended as an initial dose for puppies over 12 weeks of age followed by a second dose 2 to 3 weeks later, then single-dose revaccination annually.

As lyme disease has been a surging problem in the Northeast, upper Midwest and Pacific Coast Regions in recent years, Spectra created a vaccine to fight back. Canine Spectra 10 PLUS LYME gives dog owners confidence that their furry friends can avoid contracting the disease during what is supposed to be a heavy season for ticks. Regular vaccination or other tick prevention can deter ticks from biting dogs and transmitting the bacteria that leads to lyme disease. When left untreated, the disease can damage a dog’s heart, kidneys and nervous system.

Woman smiling and hugging small dog

Did You Know?

You Can Vaccinate Your Dog at Home. Simple instructions make it easy for users to administer dog vaccines at home, so while you will certainly enjoy cost savings, you can also rest easy knowing that your pets are getting the same industry-leading protection that veterinarians have trusted for years. Don’t forget to download a copy of this health and vaccination record to track all of your pet’s inoculations.

Get Dog Vaccines Yearly from PBS Animal Health

Vaccines play a critical role in protecting dogs from a variety of diseases. Whether you see a veterinarian regularly, or choose to vaccinate at home, your dog(s) will benefit from these USDA-approved vaccines that are both safe and effective. Shop the entire line of Spectra and other canine vaccines today.

Visit The Learning Center For More Articles

Read the Latest